Reflections on Australian 604s

The 604 marked Peugeot's re-entry into the luxury sector of the market after a long absence. It was released at the Geneva show in 1975 and aimed at the Jaguar XJ6, Mercedes 280E, BMW 525/528, Fiat 130 and Volvo 264GL. The initial reviews on the car were good:

The 604 is such a carefully conceived and thoroughly developed car that one can't help be utterly impressed.

Car (UK) August 1977

and it looked set for success in the market. This success did not come. There were two reasons for this:

  1. The 604 V6 engine was not fuel efficient at normal speeds (although it would better 20mpg cruising at 180kph) and this was a major handicap in a world suffering from the OPEC oil crisis; and
  2. The 604 was rushed into production and had many 'bugs'. The ignition and carburetion systems were silly and Peugeot chose a rough and inefficient GM automatic gearbox. When emission controls were added to the engine the result was nothing short of pathetic.

Having said all that I still consider the 604 to be a classic luxury car. When it was released it rivalled the best performers on bitumen (the Jaguar XJ6 set the standard in the mid 70s) and, unlike its competition, it wasn't afraid of the rough stuff. Nothing before or since can match it and I regret that Peugeot did not equip it with fuel injection, electronic ignition and a good automatic gearbox from the beginning.

Bill McNamee